The farm bill and farm stress

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 2, 2019

Since mid-November our farm management specialists and local USDA Farm Service Agency representatives have been holding public meetings to provide an overview of the 2018 Farm Bill. Farmers, landowners and ag professionals have been gathering in extension offices, community centers and other venues, as they do most years when there’s a new farm bill, to learn about decision points and program rules and regulations that pertain to each part of the state. But that’s not all they’re learning about this year.

Did you know? In general, farmers are entering this farm bill with more financial stress and less operating capital than in 2014, when commodity prices were still high. The financial stress has the potential to impact not only the future of the farm, but also the health of the operator. That’s why at each farm bill meeting, a human sciences specialist in family life is presenting “Stress on the Farm: Strategies to Help Each Other.” This 40-minute, scenario-based, suicide prevention training reviews the risk factors and warning signs of suicide, as well as protective factors and a strategy for how to intervene.

Our farm bill meetings – more than 60 altogether – will continue through January. We will continue to educate Iowans about Price Loss Coverage and Agriculture Risk Coverage to help them deal with the farm bill that affects their livelihood. But we’ll also continue to promote healthy strategies to help each other recognize and cope with the stress that impacts daily life.

ICM Conference

The Integrated Crop Management Conference is another way we help farmers and the ag industry prepare for 2020 and beyond. Nearly 900 attendees will gather for the Dec. 4-5 conference in Ames. Now in its 31st year, the annual event is a great opportunity for farmers, industry, ag retailers, agronomists and educators to network with each other, interact with university specialists, and learn about the latest in crop research and technology. ISU Extension and Outreach and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences host the conference.

More notes

  • The public seminar by Jay Harmon, candidate for Associate Dean for Extension and Outreach and ISU Extension Program Director for Agriculture and Natural Resources, is Dec. 3 at 1 p.m. in 0013 Curtiss Hall and via Zoom, at Learn about his strategy for leading our ANR program. The seminar will be recorded and available for viewing beginning Dec. 4. The question and answer session will not be recorded.
  • Our Growing Together volunteers harvested and donated approximately 115,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables throughout the 2019 growing season. That’s nearly 345,000 servings of fresh produce to fight hunger in Iowa. Learn more about this and other programs in the December Program Update from the leadership team.
  • A committee has begun developing a new Memorandum of Understanding between Extension Districts and Iowa State that incorporates the Structured for Success plan for our future. The MOU will be ready for councils to review and begin signing in early spring 2020. (It must be signed by June 1, 2020.) The MOU will cover three years, July 1, 2020, through June 30, 2023. We expect there will be one overarching MOU and three separate operating agreements depending on which model a council selects.
  • Congratulations to Van Buren County, the first county to submit its 2019 stakeholder report. The reports are due Jan. 1 and will be available from the County Services website. You can use your county stakeholder report throughout the year to build awareness of programs, demonstrate impact and outcomes, and show return on investment. Thank you to everyone who contributes to these reports. Sharing our extension stories helps people know how we are working in your county and throughout the state to build a strong Iowa.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

December 2019 program update

Updates from the ISU Extension and Outreach leadership team

Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources

Master Gardener volunteers with ISU Extension and Outreach continue to improve the lives and communities of Iowa, using more than $50,000 awarded this year in Growing Together Iowa Mini-Grants and growing approximately 115,000 pounds of produce to be donated to local food pantries. Twenty-two counties in Iowa received the grants, which are funded by federal SNAP-Education and are focused on increasing food security and promoting healthy food access.

  • The produce that was harvested equals nearly 345,000 servings of fruits and vegetables. This is the largest donation to date, which is particularly impressive given the weather challenges this growing season.
  • 100,579 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was donated.
  • 277 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 662 community volunteers who are not Master Gardeners contributed to Growing Together Iowa projects.
  • 1,012 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.
  • 100% of counties with mini grants agree that the project built their community’s capacity to work on issues of healthy food access.

More from Human Sciences

On Nov. 2, Sara Sprouse and Kelsey Salow, human sciences specialists in nutrition and wellness, hosted a booth at the Iowa Nurses Association – Southeast Region’s Health Fair in Iowa City. Sara Sprouse also delivered a “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” presentation to 28 attendees during the health fair, which included resources to be used personally or in the clinical work setting. Several individuals downloaded the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” app that day. The specialists used their iPads in navigating one-on-one when questions were asked at the booth. They also promoted Words on Wellness and more than 30% of attendees signed up for the monthly newsletter.

Most attendees were faculty and students from the University of Iowa, Mount Mercy University and Kirkwood Community College. Known counties represented were Benton, Linn, Johnson and Clinton. A faculty member indicated that the “Spend Smart. Eat Smart.” resources now will be used during a practicum she teaches, where students work with recently incarcerated individuals on meal planning and other nutrition topics.

More from Agriculture and Natural Resources

ISU Extension and Outreach and Iowa State University’s Research and Demonstration Farms partnered once again this year to host field days across the state this summer. Over 15,000 people attended the field days, where they had an opportunity to hear from ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and specialists regarding topics tailored to the current conditions and issues facing farmers in their areas.

4-H Youth Development

  • Eighty-three middle school students from 14 schools in 8 counties participated in Youth Voice in Action, a regional youth summit hosted by Regions 4 and 9 in northeast Iowa this fall. This summit provided youth the opportunity to gain skills in communication and leadership so that they feel empowered to take action and use their voices to create positive change in their communities. Professionals in the areas of STEM, healthy living, leadership and civic engagement, and communication and the arts presented breakout sessions where youth learned about their importance within communities as well as possible careers and education. Youth learned about their leadership style through an interactive workshop and created an action plan with their school team with the guidance of their team’s adult mentor. The summit wrapped up with a large group service project in which youth decorated 450 kindness rocks to place around their communities.
  • Members of the newly formed Drake University Collegiate 4-H club met up with some members of the ISU Collegiate 4-H club at Clover Woods in late October to learn about their clubs. Both clubs are examples of student-run organizations on a college campus and both clubs focus on service projects and leadership development. This Collegiate 4-H meet up consisted of networking, creative idea sharing and a service project.
  • Plans are underway to strengthen Iowa 4-H’s partnership with Iowa Public Television. This collaboration will focus on how we can come together to support STEM education in ways that utilize IPTV’s STEM resources.

Community and Economic Development

  • CED provides goal setting and strategic planning services to help local governments and nonprofits address critical issues, identify priorities, and develop action plans to accomplish those priorities. In December, Aimee Viniard-Weideman will facilitate strategic planning for the Keokuk Economic Development Corporation, and she and Scott Timm will facilitate strategic planning for Oneota Co-op in Decorah. Viniard-Weideman and Eric Christianson will facilitate goal setting the Cedar Falls City Council.
  • The Municipal Leadership Academy provides elected municipal officials with a curriculum to assist them in effectively meeting the requirements of their office. The program offers a comprehensive overview of Iowa municipal government and is presented by the Iowa League of Cities and CED’s Office of State and Local Government Programs. During December Sara Shonrock will be conducting MLA training in Griswold, Algona and Van Meter.
  • During December CED specialists Lynn Adams and Jon Wolseth will be presenting the CED place-based leadership program, Leading Communities, in Cass County (Atlantic). CED specialist Jane Goeken will be in Orange City to speak to Sioux, O’Brien, Lyon and Osceola county extension council members about the program. CED specialists Aimee Viniard-Weideman and Himar Hernández will be teaching Leading Communities in Mount Pleasant, and CED specialists Jane Goeken and Jill Sokness will facilitate the program in Sac City. Himar Hernández and Shelley Oltmans will teach the program in Centerville. Scott Timm will teach the program in Cresco and with Aimee Viniard-Weideman in Protivin.

Still growing together

John Lawrence’s message from Dec. 10, 2018

If all Iowans are going to eat healthfully, they need access to healthy food. That’s why our Growing Together Iowa project combines the efforts of ISU Extension and Outreach’s Human Sciences and Agriculture and Natural Resources programs for a common goal – feeding people. For the third year in a row, SNAP-Ed nutrition education and Master Gardeners partnered with local food pantries to reduce food insecurity in Iowa. The ISU research farm gardens and the county Master Gardener mini grant projects grew fresh produce for donation. Did you know?

  • Growing Together Iowa donated more than 90,000 pounds of fruits and vegetables to Iowa’s food pantries this growing season. This equals 270,000 servings.
  • 95,721 Iowans visited pantries where Growing Together Iowa produce was donated.
  • 339 Master Gardener volunteers contributed to Growing Together Iowa this growing season.
  • 1,477 people with low income engaged in food gardening education through Growing Together Iowa this year.
  • 100 percent of counties with mini grants agree that the project increased their community’s capacity to work on issues of healthy food access.

This good work will continue. Virginia, Illinois and Michigan are in their first year of replicating the Growing Together project. Wisconsin, Nebraska and Indiana are in their second year. Here in Iowa we’re looking forward to Year 4, and applications for Growing Together Mini Grants are due on Jan. 11, 2019.

More notes

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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